Poll panel to seek parties’ view on repoll if Nota wins

Economic Time, November 09, 2018

The Election Commission of India will seek views of political parties on how best to implement the will of voters if ‘None of the Above’ (Nota) secures maximum votes in an election.

The EC decision follows the Maharashtra State Election Commission’s (MSEC) recent order for local body polls that fresh elections should be held in case Nota ’emerges winner’.

EC’s communication will enlist options, including a graded strategy, depending on the percentage of Nota votes, vis-à-vis candidates in the fray. EC will propose amending Rules 64 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, for the same, an insider told ET.

MSEC in its order, earlier this week, said that for local body elections in Maharashtra, Nota will be treated like a candidate and if no real candidate gets more votes than Nota, no winner will be declared but fresh polls held.

The EC is closely reading the MSEC order and is expected to write to all political parties on the matter as soon as the yearend assembly elections are completed, ET has been informed.

EC currently has no plenary powers to call for a fresh elections even if Nota secures highest votes. To give greater sanctity to Nota and even order a fresh election, Rule 64 will have to be amended and can be done by the law ministry. It will not require Parliament sanction.

Rule 64 refers to ‘declaration of result of election and return of election’ and says that the returning officer shall declare the candidate “to whom the largest number of valid votes have been given, to be elected.”

The rule does not take into account a situation where Nota votes may be higher than those polled by any candidate. This present scenario means that even if 99% votes go to Nota, the candidate who got the highest votes, even though less than 1% of total polled, will be elected.

Section 65 and 66 of the Representation of People Act also add weight to Rule 64, as the former states that in case of a tie between two candidates, a draw of lots may be done to grant an additional vote to one of them and declared elected.

The Nota provision for rejecting all given choices was incorporated in 2013 following a Supreme Court ruling. The Nota symbol was introduced in 2015.

So far, Nota votes have not been accounted while calculating votes polled by candidates for making them eligible (1/6th of valid votes) for getting back their security deposits.

An Association of Democratic Reforms analysis says that since 2013, Nota has secured a total of 1.33 crores votes from all assemblies and Lok Sabha polls combined. Maximum Nota votes were polled in the Bihar assembly elections, 2015, and the highest percentage of vote share — 3.06% — in the Chhattisgarh assembly polls of 2013.

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